On Oct. 28, a state court prohibited the further use of the current congressional map in an attempt to take a stand against partisan gerrymandering.
The ruling comes at the end of a long battle for Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, who took a similar case to the Supreme Court earlier this year.
“We’re pleased at the court decision. We had asked for the same thing with our Rucho v. Common Cause trial that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. We were denied.” Phillips said. “We have always felt that that was flawed due to partisan gerrymandering and that the voters of N.C. deserve to have an election to elect their congressional representatives in fair districts.”
David Price, U.S. Rep. D-District 4, said gerrymandering has long been an issue that North Carolina has dealt with and that the state's history with gerrymandering impacted the ruling.
“The allegation was that this was a violation of the standards of equal protection and other core values of the state constitution, that the voters were being discriminated against and disadvantaged by extreme gerrymandering which was designed to give an overwhelming advantage to one political party,” Price said.
Prohibiting further use of the current map does not require any party to urgently redraw the maps, but it does put pressure on the General Assembly to move forward with the process of redrawing, according to Jeff Hauser, communications director for the N.C. Republican Party.
“It’s a preliminary injunction from the same three-judge panel that ruled over the state legislative maps that blocks the usage of the map for the 2020 primary, which will be held on March 3,” Hauser said. “Congressional candidates cannot move forward under the current maps...The General Assembly should look into drawing these congressional maps. And indeed, from what I understand, House Speaker Moore said that they would convene a committee on redistricting.”
According to Hauser, the date to be wary of is Dec. 1. This is the day before candidates will begin filing for the office they are running for, and he said believes that the updated map proposal will be presented to the judges before Thanksgiving.
“Filing starts Dec. 2 for federal offices and state level offices," Hauser said. "The House and Senate, if they are ordered to redraw or they start the redraw process as the suggestion as part of the injunction, it will be done and submitted before the filing so that way, it'll allow those who are deciding whether or not to run to make the decision of whether to run for re-election or jump in the race.”
Phillips said he hopes this determination will allow for a more fair election. He said he feels as though the current delegation does not accurately reflect the voters in North Carolina.
“We know that we are a purple state, but perhaps a 10-3 balance of the delegation is not a reflection of who we are,” Phillips said, referring to current makeup of partisan delegation in N.C. “Best case scenario this does provide a map that are going to be providing really what North Carolina is and that is a very competitive political state where one party doesn’t have 75 percent plus of the seat share and get fewer votes overall in all the congressional elections combined.”
Hauser contends that redrawing the maps will have an impact on both Democratic and Republican districts.
“Of course if it changes for Republican districts it also changes for some Democratic districts. They’ll definitely become more competitive rather than your traditional districts like the twelfth or the fourth that are so heavily Democratic that Republicans have no chance. Those might become more competitive and same thing for Republican districts,” he said.
Regardless of how the map turns out, Price said he is confident the updated map will work against gerrymandering and for the voters.
“I would think it would make districts more competitive and give people a fairer chance," Price said. "In fact, I think it’s almost certain to do that … If that is the case then you would expect that there would be a better balanced legislation that would emerge from this.”
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